You should follow a healthy hair regimen when your hair is out, as well as when your hair is in a protective style. There are several common protective styles like, box braids, twists, bantu knots, locs/faux locs, just to name a few. Here’s a few tips on how to maintain protective styles and the importance of scalp care.

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Image Source: @voiceofhair

1. Installation of braids, twists, locs.

The improper use of braids, twists, and locs can lead to balding, fungal growth, and even leave your hair worse than it was before they were installed. You want to maintain the health of your hair and scalp, so it is important to communicate with your Stylist that you wish to have the braids, twists, locs done loosely, loose enough that you don't feel any tension of any kind on your scalp. Unfortunately, due to habit, some stylists will make the first braid loose, but slowly start to make them tighter to try to make the style last longer. If this happens, stop them and ask politely to make them loose.

When a protective style is installed too tight, the tension you feel on your scalp is the nerve endings reacting to practically having your hair plucked out. The problem is that the strain causes the blood vessels to constrict and dilate, triggering a signal to activate pain centers in your brain, and may likely cause a bad headache. This tight protective style may lead to permanent damage to your hair follicles, and over time you'll start to notice traction alopecia, meaning your hair may stop growing due to damaged follicles. Traction alopecia is a progressive condition that is primarily caused by pulling force being applied to the hair. It's best to eliminate the risks now before it's too late, as your hair will be trapped or fixed in this style for a while, and you will not have any relief until the new growth starts to grow in.

Image Source: @protectivestyles

2. Hair maintenance.

Once installed, don't forget about hair maintenance. Paying more attention to your real hair is a must for keeping your hair healthy. Just because your hair is in a protective style doesn't mean you should forgo your entire hair care routine. This ‘set it and forget it’ ideology that your hair doesn’t require much of a commitment is a false one. 

You should continue to keep a regimen even when your hair is in a protective style. Just like our bodies need regular cleaning, it is the same for our scalp. If your scalp has high sebum production or product build-up, you should wash it at least once a week, and the best product to use is a clarifying shampoo. Wash your hair from scalp to end, with the movement going in a vertical angle, to prevent frizziness at the roots and for the protective style. 

If your stylist used extra hair/material in the braids or other protective style, use a deep conditioner after washing because the extra hair/material will soak up a lot of moisture from your real hair. With that being said, keeping your hair moisturized is very important. Spraying the style daily with a refreshing spray will also keep your hair hydrated.

Image Source: @protectivestyles

3. Limit protective style.

Remember, even if your hair looks great, keeping your braids in for too long is a big no-no. Try not to wear your protective style for longer than two months, as shedding hair begins to accumulate, and you will need to get rid of it, as it can add extra stress on your hair due to the added weight. By the time you take the braids out, you will have accumulated a lot of shedded hair strands that couldn't fall out due to the protective style.

4. Detangle.

Once you remove all your braids/twists, or other protective style, detangle in small sections. If you are not careful, many of the shedded strands may create friction with the other strands or loop around them causing them to break. Create as much slip as possible when detangling. Follow up with washing, conditioning, and moisturizing and wait a few days before installing new braids or a protective style to avoid your scalp from getting irritated.

5. Other tips.

Alternate your hairstyles to avoid causing excessive tension to one side of your head. Use a satin/silk lined bonnet/wrap and/or sleep on a satin/silk pillowcase to avoid excessive frizzing.

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What are your best tips to protect your scalp when wearing protective styles? Share them with us in the comments!

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